Unless you’ve been under a rock, you’ve certainly heard of Brandi Harvey. She’s been dubbed “The Sound of Downtown,” and performs regularly in Statesboro and the surrounding area. If you missed her singing at various venues around town, you likely caught her starring as Patsy Cline in “Always…Patsy Cline.” Or you may have caught her with the Dark Desert Highway Band.
However you may have heard her, one thing is for sure: the girl can “sang.”
Harvey is performing Nov. 8 as part of the ONE: Series at the Emma Kelly Theater. The series has showcased local talent in the area such as Vivian Summers, Shaunta Ellis and Nora Franklin. In her performance, Harvey will preview some of the music from her debut solo album. The night promises to be a glimpse of her life as a single mother, writer and performer.
A preacher’s kid, Harvey was born in Gainesville, Florida and grew up mostly in the central part of the state. The family landed in Waycross in 1993, where she finished high school and attended Waycross College, which is now South Georgia State College. Harvey transferred to Brewton-Parker College in Mt. Vernon, Georgia, where she graduated.
Harvey says her mom will tell you that she’s been singing since she was born.
“I grew up singing in church with my dad and at school,” she said, adding that she took some voice lessons in college, but her talent is “pretty much natural.”
When asked about the first time she realized that music was her calling, Harvey says she just always had that dream.
“I can’t remember a time when I didn’t dream of being a rock star or on Broadway. Of course, when you’re young, you don’t realize you don’t have to be Whitney Houston big to be a singer. I still would love to be in a big show on Broadway, but that would mean moving to New York, so I’m not sure that’s for me,” she said.
When Harvey first began singing in the area, her first gig was at the now-closed 40 East — and it soon became a weekly thing.
“Stephen Maenpaa was managing and dubbed me ‘The Sound of Downtown,’ because it’s a little jazz, a little blues. I love it. I love this town, and when I do solo or duo gigs, it leans toward a more sophisticated sound, jazz and blues predominantly. So, I like to think it fits, but it’s definitely an honor,” she said.
Harvey also has a passion for local music and is an advocate for the artists who perform it. She is the producer of the Rising Creek Music Series, which has become a showcase for local talent, and says it’s so important to support local musicians because of the hard work they put in.
“You have to really love it, and not everyone understands just how much work it takes. The musicians in Statesboro are a kind of family, and I’m naturally the ‘mom-friend’ anyway! I wish I’d had someone when I was starting and younger to encourage me and help me get my footing,” she said.
Harvey says it’s important to support these musicians also because too many times, “the musician is an afterthought.”
“We don’t get paid for the amount of work we put in. Many are busy working full-time jobs in addition to following our dreams of sharing music with the world. I am in a unique position to be able to offer that support and some measure of guidance, so I do,” she said. Harvey sings with Moss City Groove, and they perform most weekends.
“We have a lot of fun. It can be exhausting. We’re playing late gigs 9-1 most weekends, but it’s fun, so it’s worth it,” she said.
MCG is really eclectic, she adds, playing everything from White Stripes to Fleetwood Mac to Nina Simone to Miranda Lambert.
“It’s a little all over the place as far as genres, but that’s why audiences love us. There’s something for everyone. We are hoping to begin playing more events in the near future. I think we have a really special show we put on, and audiences never fail to enjoy it,” she said.
Performing in local theater has also been something Harvey has enjoyed, and she says the best singers are also part actress.
“I don’t usually even think about the difference or correlations, I just take on the roles as they come. Every show teaches me something new about performing, about how to handle the struggles and victories with grace, how to work with others. It’s always more fun when I’m collaborating with others, whether it’s Moss City Groove, the Dark Desert Highway Band or on stage at the theater,” she said.
Harvey says it’s an honor to be asked to be part of the ONE: Series.
“I am so grateful to Mical Whitaker for asking me to be a part of this series. Last season featured some really brilliant folks, so to be counted among their number is an honor,” she said.
The structure for the evening is that the first 45 minutes is an interview of sorts, designed to help the audience get to know the artist. Ressie Fuller will conduct the interview, and after a brief intermission, Harvey will perform. She says she has invited some “brilliant musicians” to join her on stage, and she plans to sing some songs from her new album, as well as a few surprises.
Harvey’s album has been years in the making.
“I’ve been talking about making this album for 5-plus years. I realized in February that if I was going to do anything with my music, I needed to do it soon,” she said.
Harvey says a good friend in Nashville, singer/songwriter Kristin Larkin, was just finishing up her Kickstarter for her album at that time, and her success was just the motivation she needed.
“My boyfriend Robert gave me the nudge I needed to get it done. Kickstarter is scary. It’s all or nothing, so if I hadn’t raised the entire amount, I would have had to start back at zero. I had some wonderful folks help me get through it,” she said.
Larkin also offered a lot of guidance, along with Broadstead Media, who shot the images and video for the campaign. Harvey also credits Ashley Whittemore, who assisted with the marketing, along with her friends and fans who shared posts on social media to help get the funds raised.
“It came down to the wire. We were literally minutes from the deadline when the last few backers pushed us just over the edge. I don’t have words to explain how grateful I am to the folks who believe in me enough to help me fund the album. Without them, this album would still be sitting in my notebooks and voice memos, not being completed,” she said.
Harvey says all the songs on her album are original. One was mostly written by Tanya Gragg, with some contribution by Harvey, and she says the song is a “knockout.” The rest are all Harvey’s.
“I am incredibly proud of them. Choosing the right ones for the album was a challenge. It really just happened organically. There were some that I knew had to be on the album. That helped determine the rest,” she said.
Some of the songs were determined by who Harvey would be working with. Her producer, Daniel, loves jazz like she does, and they ended up going that direction with the project, for the most part. But there are a few songs that are Americana/Folk in nature, she adds.
It’s often said that an album is a reflection of where the artist is at that time in his or her life. Harvey says that some of the songs on the album are a few years old, so they may not fully reflect where she is now.
“There are still elements of each of the songs that I connect to, or I’d probably have tossed them,” she says, laughing. “The title song, though, is a struggle I face daily. It’s called ‘Reckless,’ and it deals with the challenge of stepping out and doing daring things, or following status quo and living according to the expectations of others. That one is especially still resonant.”
Harvey says there is a strong sense of “girl power” on the album.
“With four women in the house, me and my three teenage daughters, there’s a lot of girl power vibes floating around all the time,” she said.
Harvey is quick to tell you she couldn’t have made the album without the support of her family, friends and fans.
“Each and every one of them is so generous, and I am so grateful for them. My kids and my boyfriend are the biggest reason I’m able to do this. They are understanding of my time, come to shows when they can, and encourage me when I need it,” she said. “They share me with strangers and friends because they understand that it’s part of the job. I am so grateful for that. I hope I am teaching not just my girls, but others that it may be scary, but you can do what you love, if you do the work and have faith.”
Harvey hopes people will enjoy the album and really connect with her music.
“I just hope they hear the music and realize they aren’t alone. Someone out there has been where they are, and they can get through it,” she said.
The ONE: Series performance, which will begin at 7:30 p.m., will double as Harvey’s CD release, so her album will be available that night for purchase. It can also be purchased at her website, www.brandiharveymusic.com.
Tickets for the event are $15, with $10 tickets available for students. Buy tickets at www.averittcenterforthearts.org.